It’s a fine line between heart and horrible.
Had the Sox not displayed "heart" the past two games, they would have a three-game lead entering a three-game series with the Yankees, reeling from a sweep at the hands of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Instead, they would simply be playing horrible ball.
Two dramatinc comebacks masks the "horrible," but they cannot erase it.
It’s fantastic to see the Sox bats come alive late — even if it is against the likes of the Devil Ray relievers. But 2006 showed us that having walkoff wins and late rallies can cover up the truth that your team just isn’t that good. It’s one reason why I thought the Sox’ lack of walk-off wins this year was more satisfying than frustrating: Boston had the best record in baseball largely without needing to stage last-ditch rallies.
These last two games, though, have held far more import than, say, the walk-offs we saw last July. With just two weeks remaining, and the series with New York coming up, these games assured that even with a sweep, the Sox will still be up by two games with 12 remaining. There’s no underestimating the value those wins have late in September.
There’s also the question of whether two such inspirational wins can have a carryover effect into the Yankee series. We saw that four straight blowouts of the White Sox and, conversely, a Tiger blowout of the Yankees did nothing for momentum earlier this month. What the rallies have done is disguise significant concerns heading into this series.
The Sox’ starting pitching, beyond Beckett and Schilling, has been shaky. Two straight bad starts from Wakefield, three from Matsuzaka, and continuing inconsistency from Lester. Other than David Ortiz, the Sox’ bats (especially Jason Varitek’s) were beyond frustrating against a hittable pitcher. These things must be rectified if the Sox want to maintain their division lead or, more importantly, make it to and win the World Series.
Ending on a happy note, the Sox’ bullpen continues to be amazing. 5.1 scoreless innings last night, with props to Julian Tavarez for sterling long-relief work in what has really been an extraordinary season for him, all things considered, preceded by 4.1 innings of one-run ball after Wakefield and Snyder spit the bit. That’s 9.2 innings, 7 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts and two very important victories.